Since the selection committee constituted by the UPSC is manned by experts in the field, we have to trust their assessment unless it is actuated with malice or bristles with mala fides or arbitrariness, the bench said.
Reiterating that courts cannot sit as an appellate authority or an umpire to examine the recommendations of the Selection Committee of Public Service Commissions, the Supreme Court in UPSC vs M Sathiya Priya, observed that the recommendations of the selection committee cannot be challenged except on the ground of mala fides or serious violation of the statutory rules.
A bench of Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Justice Navin Sinha set aside a Madras High Court judgment that had confirmed an order to Central Administrative Tribunal which had interfered with the select list. The CAT had further directed to consider the name of the candidate (applicant) for appointment to the IPS by taking into account the service records for the period from 1.4.2003 to 31.3.2008. Before the tribunal, the contention was that the selection committee ought to have graded her as “outstanding” or at least “very good”, on an overall relative assessment of her service records, and consequently she would have been selected for the year 2008.
On appeal, the bench observed that the tribunal and the high court misdirected in coming to the wrong conclusion that annual confidential reports from 1.4.2003 to 31.03.2008 ought to have been taken into consideration inasmuch as such conclusion is against the regulations and the guidelines. The court further observed that the selection committee is not required to compulsorily accept the gradings given in the annual confidential reports as it would amount to merely acting as a post office and the whole process would be nothing but a farce. ”No doubt, the Selection Committee may be guided by the classification adopted by the State Government but, for good reasons, the Selection Committee may evolve its own classification which may be at variance with the grading given in the Annual Confidential Reports,” the bench said.
Observing that the court has only limited scope of judicial review in these matters, the bench said: “In our considered opinion, when a High-Level Committee or an expert body has considered the merit of each of the candidates, assessed the grading and considered their cases for promotion, it is not open to the CAT and the High Court to sit over the assessment made by the Selection Committee as an appellate authority. The question as to how the categories are assessed in light of the relevant records and as to what norms apply in making the assessment is exclusively to be determined by the Selection Committee. Since the jurisdiction to make selection as per law is vested in the Selection Committee and as the Selection Committee members have got expertise in the matter, it is not open for the Courts generally to interfere in such matters except in cases where the process of assessment is vitiated either on the ground of bias, mala fides or arbitrariness.”
The court observed that, in this case, neither the decision nor the decision-making process was actuated with malice, and no grave mistake was committed by the selection committee leading to arbitrariness.